At the Modjeska Playhouse in Lake Forest, “A Very Merry Unscripted Christmas” is fast becoming a holiday tradition. Full‑length plays are improvised in the style of the Hallmark Channel’s sentimental holiday films. Every performance is different, so there’s no telling what Yuletide theme the cast will riff on, from a rebellious Elf on the Shelf to a neighborhood decorating contest. “But no matter what happens, Christmas always finds a way to get the two leads to fall in love and create a happy ending,” says actor and artistic director Christopher Sullivan. In time for this year’s run, here are a few of the Unscripted troupe’s favorite Hallmark holiday movies. mphstage.org
LAUREN BAUMBAUER | “Christmas Under Wraps,” 2014
Candace Cameron Bure plays a doctor who doesn’t get the prestigious position she wants and ends up taking a job in a remote Alaskan town where she finds romance and discovers the town’s secret.
“It’s a modern story that’s full of snow, romance, soy milk, and Santa Claus. Pulling out Santa in an improvised show adds a lot of random fun to any Hallmark-like story we find ourselves in.”
CHRISTOPHER SULLIVAN| “Fir Crazy,” 2013
An ambitious businesswoman and holiday humbug (Sarah Lancaster) finds herself unemployed, newly single, and running the family Christmas tree lot.
“I have said many times, if I wasn’t an actor and an artistic director of a theater, I would want to run a Christmas tree farm. Partly due to my affinity for Timberlands and flannel, but also because they bring nothing but Christmas spirit and happiness—unless you are a tree.”
SHANA JEAN MARTIN |“Family for Christmas,” 2015
A successful TV reporter (Lacey Chabert) reveals a wish to an office-party Santa and wakes up the next morning to find herself the mother of two kids and married to her college boyfriend.
“Despite the fact that this movie transports everyone back to the expectations and ideals of the 1960s, I still love it! And, really, isn’t that what Hallmark holiday movies are all about—simple pleasures and the triumph of family?”